You know what so many playoff series come down to? Inevitabilities. It’s inevitable that Denver’s chaotic group of misfit toys will all turn around and fire on themselves at some point. It’s inevitable that the Celtics’ age will become a non-cliche’d, genuine liability against the brand new supercomputer of the moment. It’s inevitable that the Suns’ inability to produce stops in key situations will be their downfall.
It’s also, as the Portland Trail Blazers found out tonight in their 107-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns, inevitable that the Suns offense will have a night where it just completely overwhelms you. Tonight was the night that inevitability came home to roost for the Blazers.
Check out the box score. It’s all there.
Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t have playoff career highs. But moreso than any game in this series, the pick and roll was there. They fronted, Amar’e feigned. They posted, he spun. They trapped Nash, he lobbed. And when that component opens up, you adjust. Which means somewhere, someone is open on the perimeter. Channing Frye? Jared Dudley? They were someone tonight.
Frye was due for a game like this, and lit it up. Drive and dish catch and shoots. Transition trailer. Double perimeter rotation. Open, good looks, with a Blazers team that was too busy trying to understand why it was running so hard to understand where it should be running. And with Brandon Roy looking like a guy who had knee surgery 10 days ago, the Blazers now face an elimination game in Portland.
You have to accept a game like this. It’s going to happen under the circumstances the Blazers are operating. But if they want to win this series, they’d better hope it’s the last one.
When you talk about the most underrated players in the NBA, especially with the casual fan, Mike Conley is at the top of the list. The Grizzlies’ point guard has played at an All-Star level for a few seasons now but hasn’t gotten the recognition, in part because it’s Memphis and in part because the West is stacked with quality point guards.
The New York Knicks desperately need an upgrade at the point.
Which has led to the latest fantasy of seemingly every Knick fan (and talking head in the city) — the free agent Conley coming to New York this summer. When asked about it Friday before the Grizzlies and Knicks squared off, Conley didn’t kill the rumors (which in New York is like throwing gasoline on them). Here are his quotes, via Ian Begley of ESPN.
“I think everything will be on the table when that time comes,” Conley said Friday morning after the Grizzlies’ shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “I haven’t committed to anything…
“They’ve got talent, obviously,” he said. “I think [Kristaps] Porzingis surprised a lot of people. He’s going to be very, very good in this league. He already is pretty good. But he’s going to grow each year, and they already have one of the best small forward in Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. They’ve got a young team, so they’ve got a lot of room to improve.”
The smart money is on Conley staying in Memphis, the only NBA team he has ever played for. Conley was very active last summer in recruiting Marc Gasol to remain in Memphis, and has said it would be very difficult to leave him. Plus the Grizzlies can offer more money — one more guaranteed year plus larger raises.
The Knicks will need to lose some salary before July 1 just to offer Conley a max, which likely starts around $24 million (depends on the final salary cap number). What the Knicks can offer is a larger stage for his brand and the chance to bring that brand out of the shade of Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Conley — who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game, is shooting 35 percent from three, is good on the pick-and-roll, plus is one of the best defensive point guards in the game — will have plenty of other suitors as well. He’s one of the best players on the free agent market this summer.
Kevin Durant to the Warriors is having a moment, but even the most recent and most credible report linking the Thunder star to Golden State contained an important caveat:
Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said
Nobody has credibly reported Durant is leaning toward leaving the Thunder. The issue at hand is where Durant would go IF he leaves Oklahoma City.
Except one NBA general manager has gone a step further.
Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
General managers know a lot of things we don’t, but like anyone, they can also be prone to repeating gossip and hearsay. Does this general manager have inside info, or is he just participating the echo chamber? Impossible to say, but the possibility of the former raises the level of intrigue.
Of course, the Warriors can’t be the leaders in the clubhouse, because they’re not in the clubhouse. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Nobody has made their final pitch, not even the Thunder.
It’s fun to make bold predictions now, and this general manager has a chance of looking genius. But sometimes the desire for that designation causes people to get ahead of themselves.
Here was my gut feel on a report that the Clippers had talked to the Nuggets about trading Blake Griffin to Denver:
1. Nuggets calling Clippers about Griffin
2. Clippers saying they’re not interested
3. Nuggets leaking the fact that Griffin trade talks happened with the Clippers – technically true! – to excite their fan base and potential free agents considering whether or not to take Denver seriously
Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:
Woike is the more reliable source of information here. I believe that’s all this was.
The Clippers probably shouldn’t sell low on Griffin now. But if the Nuggets made a truly reasonable offer based on Griffin’s peak value – and I doubt they did – it also wouldn’t hurt to consider it.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he increasingly believes the league should change its Hack-a-Shaq rules this offseason.
LeBron James – who has the commissioner’s ear on a number of issues – disagreed.
LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
“I don’t really see a problem with it,” James said at shootaround Friday in preparation for the Celtics. “At the end of the day, it’s a strategy of the game and whatever it takes to win. If that’s a part of the game, and you have a guy that is a bad free-throw shooter and you put him on the line, that’s a part of strategy.”
“That’s no different from a guy that can’t shoot well from the outside and you try to make him shoot bad from outside, or if a guy is turnover-prone and you put pressure on him. It’s all part of strategy. It’s no different,” he said.
There is a difference – a big one.
Hacking someone takes no basketball skill.
I could intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond. I could not keep a bad NBA outside shooter from getting into the paint. I could not force a turnover-prone NBA player into coughing up the ball.
There’s nothing wrong with exploiting an opponent’s weakness, but with the exception of hacking, that takes ability of your own.
Hacking is an outlier strategy, and as a result, it deserves special treatment in the rulebook.